Jurassic Park – 24 years on

There are defining films for each generation that children tend to grow up with and look back at with delightful nostalgia. Some with Star Wars in the 70s, others with Ghostbusters in the 80s. I grew up with Jurassic Park. I was only 2 when it was released in the cinema but it soon found its way into our household in VHS form (oh god, do I have the right to feel old right now? There could be people reading this who have never even seen a VHS!) And so instead of watching The Lion King on repeat, I watched Jurassic Park. Seriously. On repeat! Look at the state of the video now…

JPYep, I did manage to root that out and find it for the purpose of this article. You’re welcome. (Please ignore the chewed edges, I think that was how my 4 year old self dealt with those T-Rex scenes).

The characters in JP are essential to its success. As an impressionable pre-teen, Lex was the clever computer hacker who I pretended to be when I ran around the garden looking for dinosaur bones. In addition Ellie Sattler was the girl I wanted to be when I grew up- actually, I still want to be Ellie when I grow up. She quickly became a type of feminist icon to me when I was younger and taught me that women can be scientists and intelligent and ‘inherit the Earth’ and not have to be half naked while they do it.

Over 20 years on and JP is still a pop culture phenomenon. Those special effects aren’t outdated in the least. JP shows the difference between films which rely on CGI and ones who use it to simply enhance particular moments. Using Star Wars as an example, the original trilogy was heralded as a success in 1977 as far as CGI was concerned- however the same cannot be said for the prequel. Six years on from Jurassic Park and The Phantom Menace exhausts its use of CGI to the point where it is no longer seamless or used for enhancement; you are brought out from the narrative because the special effects are so obvious.

ellie sattlerI went to see the 20th anniversary re-release of the film in 3D and the feelings of wonder and awe that I felt all those years ago were still present- the theatre was sold-out which helped intensify the feelings of an event. Spielberg used 3D as brilliantly as he used simple CGI 20 years ago- at essential moments to enhance the spectacle. With Jurassic Park feeling so timeless 20 years later, can we say the same for a modern day success such as The Avengers. Will that still be relevant and timeless in 2033? I doubt kids would have been chewing their DVD case with tension thats for sure.

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Emma Stone vs Emma Watson

I’m sure you all saw that incident at the Oscar’s this year. You know which one I mean. The bit where the Best Picture Oscar went to La La Land for a good 2 or 3 minutes before it was correctly awarded to Moonlight. Eek.

That event took center stage this year and I think slightly stole the limelight from the other winners which was a shame. One of the other winners of the night was Emma Stone who (correctly) won for Best Actress.

Take a look at this video where at around 6 minutes in, Emma Stone is asked an interesting question.

A journalist asks Stone if she is going to take Emma Watson out for dinner after turning down the role. Stone, quite rightly, states that Watson is doing pretty well regardless of what she’s insinuating.

emma watson and stoneCan we please stop pitting actresses, women, against each other!?

I certainly haven’t seen Brad Pitt asked to thank a fellow actor for a presumptuous ‘bad career move’ that assisted his own.

Furthermore, the internet is now filled with the casting drama regarding Watson simply turning ‘La La Land’ down as she was already connected to ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Both of which requiring lengthy singing and dancing training. Not to mention one being filmed in La La Land itself, L.A. and BatB being shot in London. It was pretty unfeasible.

However, the media continues to run with this ‘battle of the Emmas’. And nowhere near as much media hype has been made regarding the Miles Teller/Ryan Gosling ‘feud’; will Ryan be taking Miles out to dinner to thank him for turning down his La La Land role I wonder. The fact is this happens every single day. It is extremely rare that any job only ever gets one applicant and someone isn’t beaten to it.

The journalist asking Stone this question was a woman and we are definitely not innocent parties here. Women are some of the worst when it comes to pitting females against each other.

Both Stone and Watson are in two of the biggest films of 2017 and I’m pretty sure they’ll both be fine regardless of their choices. And, dare I say it, happy for each other. Good roles for women are rare in Hollywood and we need to start celebrating successful women in the industry.

 

 

 

 

Kia Ora -Could Thor: Ragnarok not have had a female director?

We’ve had our first look at the new Thor installment ‘Ragnarok’ this week with the release of some images from Entertainment Weekly. (Off on a tangent already but… immediately noticeable is that there’s a new look for Thor; his delicate blonde locks have been chopped off. The horror.) ‘Ragnarok’ is the third of the franchise with each of Thor’s films receiving a new director each time. ‘Thor’ was directed by Kenneth Branagh, ‘The Dark World’ by Alan Taylor and ‘Ragnarok’ will be helmed by New Zealand’s Taika Waititi.

thor 3 cover

 

When it was announced that Waititi got the job back in 2015, I was a little apprehensive if I’m honest. At that point Waititi had only directed three feature films including ‘What We Do In The Shadows’ (a fave of mine tbh) and a handful of TV episodes including axed USA remake of ‘The Inbetweeners’.

Yet he’s being handed one of the biggest jobs in Hollywood as far as budget, hype and bums-on-seats is concerned.

Could they not have found someone more qualified? Or were all other male directors busy? Could Marvel not have chosen *gasp* a female director?

By choosing Waititi what do we think Marvel are trying to get him to bring to the table with Ragnarok? Waititi’s films such as WWDITS and ‘The Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ have incredible comedic elements to them. Perhaps Marvel want to bring some more comedy to Thor’s third outing; especially considering the success of the Team Thor flatmate short’s.

Perhaps Marvel could have contacted Elizabeth Banks – as the first name off the top of my head. Other female directors with a focus on comedic elements could have included Amy Heckerling, Marjane Satrapi or Gurinder Chadha. Banks is extremely funny and current who has recently directed Pitch Perfect 2 and will be directing the new Charlie’s Angels. Nope, these movies aren’t similar to a film such as Thor, but neither is The Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Marvel have also been setting their sights on becoming more diversified by green-lighting Captain Marvel and Black Panther stand-alone movies. Perhaps Marvel were also looking to bring more diversity behind the cameras as well?

Perhaps Marvel could have asked Ava DuVernay? Interestingly DuVernay was scouted to direct the Black Panther movie however ‘creative differences’ was cited and she eventually left the project before even beginning.

Have Marvel hired Waititi based off of the fact that he is what some would call an ‘up and coming’ director? This makes me wonder if Marvel could retain more creative control over Waititi and his decisions for Ragnarok.

thor 3

Waititi and Hemsworth

Bottom line – I’m kinda pissed that there’s extremely talented female directors out there who have more than proved their worth with incredible CVs that are just overlooked. Women and POC are only ever in the running for jobs if the source material concerns women or POC.

Captain Marvel looks like it will be directed by a woman, however no announcement has been made yet of Marvel’s final decision. Similarly, the Black Panther job went to Ryan Coogler.

White men direct films about POC and women all the time. Therefore I’m kinda glad that Waititi, a New Zealand born part-Maori, is at the helm of a movie which is essentially just about another white guy saving the world.

Marvel can take chances and make changes as they have such a huge platform. I’m still waiting for them to look outside of the box and be brave. People will go to their movies regardless and they can encourage some real change in Hollywood if they only had the balls.

Imposter Syndrome

Over the past year I’ve read Bossypants by Tina Fey, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso and Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. And if memory serves, I remember every single one of them describing struggling with something called Imposter Syndrome.

A quick wiki describes Imposter Syndrome as

a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved… [it] is particularly common among high-achieving women.”

Before I even start, I just cannot with this. That we have people like Adam Sandler walking around without a care in the world, who hasn’t made a good film since I was still in nappies, and these extremely hard working and evidently successful women feel this way. It makes me kinda mad. The feeling manifests in very different ways- women saying that their achievements aren’t good enough, or aren’t as good as their peers, as well as expressing shock and dismissiveness when praised with good work claiming that the success was merely luck or they had a lot of help.

Emma Watson is another extremely successful celebrity who has admitted to being plagued with this. As well as being a world famous actress, she is now an ambassador for UN Women and an incredible role model. However, she still seems to be coming to grips with her incredible success and achievements; all of which she is very deserving of. In British Vogue’s September issue she explains that, “when I receive recognition for my acting, I feel incredibly uncomfortable. I tend to turn in on myself. I feel like an imposter.” She also describes in an interview with Rookie Mag that you can read here about how she felt that “any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved. I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am and what everyone’s expectations of me are.”

Emma Watson at UN Women conference #HeForShe

The Imposter Syndrome originates from a study conducted by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes back in 1978 called ‘The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention’, you can read the study here. They explain that the Imposter Syndrome itself could manifest in “societal sex-role stereotyping” which would explain why the syndrome appears a lot more in women than in men. Girls grow up in societies which encourage them to be pretty and not play in the dirt, to not be bossy, to be ambitious but not too ambitious as to make men feel emasculated. As Clance and Imes go on to say, “a woman’s femininity is called into question by her success”- no wonder women are so quick to dismiss their successes. Being a ‘go-getter’ and ambitious are attractive qualities in men, it is a shame the same cannot be said for women. This article describes how the word ambition is a ‘dirty word’ and is practically an insult and when “applied to women, it’s almost a slur – the subtext somehow being that ambitious women are out to trample colleagues on the ladder to success, with family and friends littered somewhere down the bottom of the life priorities list.”

Similarly, the media have continuously portrayed successful women as being extremely unnattractive. Think Sarah Jessica Parker in ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’, or Sandra Bullock in ‘The Proposal’. It would be nice if women were encouraged to be successful and own it. Not to be described as ‘full of herself’ or ‘bitchy’ for knowing she’s a badass business woman and a successful woman period, whether she has two kids and a dog waiting for her at home or Netflix and popcorn.

The Babadook

I have already mentioned on this blog about my preferred way of watching horror films. I like to be in a fun group of people who are all about as much of a wuss as myself, and I’ll do anything to avoid sleeping alone that night. Bingo! August 22nd I went to my friends house for wine, take-out and films. I had been meaning to watch The Babadook for months, however as I am a massive wuss, I usually wait for events like these to roll around to tick off a horror movie.

Thankfully, my two friends and viewing partners that evening love horror films and are both just as big a scaredy cat as I am.

We had an insane amount of technical difficulties in order to get the film to even start. Netflix was down, then the laptop we were using was too slow to stream anywhere else online, and the download speed was dire also. By the time we got the film going, I was praying that it was going to be worth all that faff.

the babadook

‘The Babadook’ centers on Amelia who is a single mum (as her beloved husband died years earlier) and her son, Sam. Early on we are shown that the son is extremely difficult, getting himself in trouble at school and at birthday parties as well as continuously not sleeping complaining of the monster in his bedroom – this all leads to Amelia becoming increasingly stressed and exhausted. One night when Sam can’t sleep, Sam picks a book from the bookshelf which Amelia proceeds to read to him: Mister Babadook. From then on, the Babadook is ever present in both their minds and their home.

Amelia is a truly incredible character. I do realise that I am suffering from my usual ‘honeymoon syndrome’ which I experience with films, where I love everything about them until something better comes along. I can’t help it; I’m fickle. But honestly, Amelia may be one of my favourite female characters to date. Definitely my favourite horror film character. She is presented as an actual complex character. This is a gift usually only bestowed upon male characters, especially in horror. Female characters are continuously presented as the victim and/or the sexual object. Amelia is a mother, neighbour, sister, colleague, potential love interest as well as being a messy character in that she ruins all of these relationships during the course of the film and importantly, there is no male character coming to save her. It is also worth noting that Amelia as a mother is extremely believable – she doesn’t strip off and jump into the shower to ‘wash away her worries’- she is a complex human being who then also happens to be a mother.

The use and presentation of female sexuality and agency is also relatively rare in a horror. Amelia is not branded the ‘slut’ after she is shown using her vibrator, nor does she become the first to die; she doesn’t seem to be punished as a result of her sexuality at all. Similarly, female sexuality is not presented as ‘monstrous’ such as it is in ‘Carrie’ or ‘Alien’ and is regularly another horror stereotype. As mentioned earlier, Amelia’s sister, her sister’s friend, neighbour and female child services officer are all female and they all possess a form of agency and control over the narrative. They are not treated as back seat characters.

the babadook book

The monster itself I found very intriguing and original. Some of the best horror films I’ve ever seen always forgo revealing the ‘monster’ and instead increase tension to the point where I almost start feeling sick. ‘The Babadook’ had this exact affect on me. You’re first shown a drawing of the Babadook in the story book that Amelia reads to Sam. After that the monster is merely hinted at, yet his presence is so overwhelming that that in itself was scary enough and you’re constantly waiting for it to make an actual appearance. Luckily, it does and the wait is worth it. The tension built in ‘The Babadook’ reminded me of ‘Mama’ (I’ve written about ‘Mama’ here), however thankfully once you’re shown the monster, that is where the similarity ended. The payoff in ‘Mama’ was dire and disappointing. Mister Babadook himself appeared looking almost as hand-drawn as he was in the book itself, and moved with a stop-motion effect. It almost makes you continue to use your imagination, and this made the monster creepy and eerier than I expected.

‘The Babadook’ deals with incredibly complex themes such as motherhood, grief and depression. Sadly, I’ve read a lot of Facebook status’ and Tweets which give the impression that the main themes and important issues that the film deals with were missed by a lot of viewers; who in turn rated the film badly. The film transcends entertainment and I found myself actually caring for and fearing for these characters. Usually in horror films, the characters are written so badly that I’m quite excited to see them die.

It turns out that the film was definitely worth all the technical faff and has found itself in my Top 3 films of 2015!

Have you seen ‘The Babadook’? What did you think?

What 50 Shades of Grey and One Direction have in common.

That might be a little bit of a misleading title… but I think you’ll see my point eventually.

Let’s quickly run through my evolution with ’50 Shades of Grey’. As far as I can remember, it started with lots of hate, basically. I heard about it, and the way it deals with issues concerning rape, consent, domestic violence and laaaaarge amounts of stalking. I didn’t like it one bit.

Then I started getting into arguments and discussions with friends and realised that basically, I had no leg to stand on as I hadn’t actually read it. Cue me reading the 1st book about 3 or 4 years ago. I then, after witnessing first hand the terrible writing and all the above issues, became even more enamored with shouting ‘this book is awful, stop reading it! Educate yourselves!’ etc etc. And then I basically was over it, and bored and not bothered for the next 4 years.

Now however, the film is released, and everyone’s hype is back up into overdrive and I again, have things that I wanna say. However, they’re a little different to my previous views. I like to think I’ve taken my previous issues and instead moved on from them and sort of asked ‘why did I hate this book so much? Why does almost everyone hate this book so much?!’

This blog post won’t really be discussing the story or the issues involved within the book, I am more interested in the hype, the ideology and the culture surrounding it. So specifically I’m interested in how this piece of media is generally made by women, for women- and so society hates it. It really is as simple as that. That is what I am interested in.

One Direction's fans.

One Direction’s fans.

This ‘girl culture’ and society hating it, is not new. Take Miley Cyrus, One Direction, Twilight and the Kardashians; their main audience is young girls and women and so they’re generally ridiculed by society. It is no coincidence. Generally people see ’50 Shades’ as stupid and silly, and so in reflection of that girl culture is seen as stupid and silly. Most people think that they hate ’50 Shades’ because the writing is bad, or the representation of BDSM is bad etc, but really, the majority of people don’t really know why they hate it. They hate it because their friends do, or because the cool guy on their Facebook shared a LAD Bible post ridiculing it- people hate ’50 Shades’ because society hates it, because society hates things women like.

My opinion on these matters has reached such a level that I almost want ’50 Shades of Grey’ to do well. We need to encourage women and their interests to become unapologetically mainstream. Because literally everything else in mainstream media is catered to men, it is made by men for men and it always keeps in mind the male gaze. For example, the film ‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’ was released in 2013 and explores the relationship between two women. It should have celebrated LGBT and its success should have pioneered more media created for that group. However is still had the male gaze front and center, probably because of its straight male director; and most LGBT viewers were disappointed.

The backlash to ’50 Shades’ is unbelievable. Domestic Violence campaigners have called for a boycott of the film, in which they want people to donate the cost of a ticket to the film to a Women’s Shelter. Although this seems noble in light of the questionable treatment of Ana by Christian in the books, how can this be happening when people like Mark Wahlberg, Sean Penn, Bill Cosby and Chris Brown are all still relatively successful and there is nowhere near the same backlash and push towards boycotting their careers?!

I think it’s funny to consider The Bible’s treatment of women. There’s one particular passage from 1 Timothy which states:

I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man: she is to keep silent – 1 Timothy 2:12

And yet people literally worship this book and it is the reason that women have had to fight for so many rights in this world; and people are boycotting ’50 Shades’? Get your shit together, people.

Society is too obsessed with looking towards all the bad things that could come of ’50 Shades’ instead of looking at what good can come of it. It has started a discussion surrounding domestic violence and consent. I’m hoping that these discussions can encourage readers/viewers to be aware of these issues and still enjoy the film. Issues surrounding ‘what is ok for women to do’ in society is also a discussion which I think ’50 Shades’ has started. Men watching porn, masturbating, being sexual are things that still hold stigma for women; hopefully ’50 Shades’ will begin to change that.

I think ’50 Shades’, although extremely problematic, can hopefully be more of an interestingly positive influence on society than a bad one. I’m hoping that it begins conversations and movements towards people becoming more educated about the aspects this book gets wrong. Mostly, I want women to accept other women regardless of whether they went to the cinema to see this film last weekend or not. Seeing ’50 Shades’ has become a lot like slut-shaming; shaming people for seeing this film is not cool. This is something which was made by women for women, and that should be celebrated.

If you’re going to see 50 Shades of Grey; educate yourself and have fun.

2014 Most Expensive Films

During the New Year I had a look back at the most successful films of 2014, and obviously noticed everything seemed a little… manly. Then I looked at the most expensive films made in 2014 and there were films such as ‘Maleficent’ which, as everyone knows, stars Angelina Jolie in the lead role, but everything still looked heavily sausage based.

So, using the source that I found, detailing the most expensive films made in 2014 (which you can find here), I did a little researching. Using IMDB I decided to list how many females were involved in the Top 15 most expensive films of 2014 using these criteria; amount of women listed in the top 5 casting list, how many of the writers were female and how many of these films were directed by women. This was merely an experiment to see just how much studios and production companies did actually back women and their abilities in this industry, and their willingness to give them the big bucks in order to make big blockbuster films created by and starring women.

And so, here are my results:

Film Name: Top 5 Cast: Writers Credit: Directors Credit:
Amazing Spiderman 2 1 0 0
Transformers: Age of Extinction 1 0 0
X-Men: Days of Future Past 2 1 0
Exodus: Gods and Kings 0 0 0
Maleficent 4 1 0
Edge of Tomorrow 1 0 0
Guardians of the Galaxy 1 1 0
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 1 0 0
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 1 1 0
Godzilla 1 0 0
Mr. Peabody & Sherman 1 0 0
How To Train Your Dragon 2 2 1 0
Noah 2 0 0
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1 0 0
300: Rise of the Empire 2 0 0
Totals: 21/75 (28%) 5/35 (14.2%) 0/15 (0%)

Simplifying this data we can see that of 75 actors just 21 of them were women, that’s just 28%. Let us remember that women take up about 50% of the actual population, that’s almost double the amount of women that are actually represented on screen in 2014 in the 15 most expensive films made. It is also fairly obvious that in most of these films, if women are represented, it’s through a more ‘token woman’ approach.

As for these films being influenced by women creatively, just 5 out of 35 writers were women. That’s 14.2%. And (though I wasn’t expecting miracles) the amount of female directors in these films was obviously 0.

Overall, there were only 26 women included in the 125 roles needed to create these films. Approximately 20.8%. Now, I know that these are specific criteria which I have hand selected, and so the data is debatable, however, I believe, does give a general indication of women actually included in films with big money. I could have chosen to examine just the lead-actor credit, in which case the resulting figure of represented females would have been considerably lower. If I had have chosen to use the top 10 billed cast, the figure would have been higher.

Regardless, I feel that this gives us a very stark insight into just how much the film industry, especially in Hollywood, is still controlled and taken up by men.

How can we expect female representations in film to change, and create films which pass the Bechdel test, or films where women are allowed to be complicated and complex when there are next-to-no women being allowed to create these characters through writing or direction. I think that we must put our faith where film studios with lots of money do not- into independent films. Films which are allowed more freedom of altering stereotypes and prejudices. And then eventually this will hopefully filter through to big Hollywood productions, who will then learn to change their ways. (One can only hope, right?!).

I understand that independent films are important and can help this change, but ultimately everyone’s eye is on Hollywood. It always is, and that is not changing. Hollywood productions reach the most people, and create the most impact, and so when women aren’t directing these films, audiences start to believe that women simply do not direct films, at all. Period. They believe that all women are supporting characters, and all women are just mothers, sisters, wives and daughters of a leading man.

I am not holding out much hope for significant change in 2015, however with films such as ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ and the all female-led ‘Ghostbusters’ in production I am at least seeing some more exposure to women overall. And what I am hoping is that these films will be successful and will show big studios with the big bucks that women can hold their own and can be interesting without being in reflection or reaction of male characters.

The Bechdel Test

It’s hard to believe that during the 18 months of blogging, I have barely mentioned the Bechdel test. It is what I like to think of as being something which is ‘traditional’ in the world of feminist critiquing, and which is seen as a standard by which feminist films are discussed. However, 30 years later, I believe it needs some serious looking at to give it a bit of an update in relation to how we understand feminism, films and representations in 2015.

For those of you who may not know, the inception of the Bechdel test was in a 1985 comicstrip ‘Dykes to Watch Out For’ created by Alison Bechdel. The test itself originated in the form of two female characters in a comic strip joking about the lack of female representation in films and discussing one of the women’s rules concerning attending the cinema. Her rules are;

  • films must include 2 women
  •  who have at least 1 conversation
  •  about something other than a man
Bechdel Test comic strip, found via Google Images.

Bechdel Test comic strip, found via Google Images.

Sounds simple, right? Think again. Although the test is taken out of the context of the comic, the test works well and simply in order to highlight the under-representation of female characters. The massive success of the Bechdel test comes from how simple the test actually is, and how many films spectacularly fail the test. Take the whole of the ‘Star Wars’ original trilogy for example- there are only 3 named female characters in the entire series and none of them speak to each other, at all. I’ve come to the inevitable conclusion that most media think that women aren’t worth portraying unless it’s in relation to men.

However, media texts can pass the Bechdel test and yet be an extremely misogynistic text on the whole. As well as films failing the test which can be considered feminist; with strong female characters, with their own narrative arc, separate from men etc. And so the test itself becomes problematic.

Recently there was a proposed reformed response to the Bechdel test, in the form of the Mako Mori test. Named after the female, asian, character from ‘Pacific Rim’, who fans practically worship, the test is a response to female characters who are for all intents and purposes ‘feminist’, but who don’t pass the Bechdel test, just like Mako herself. The Mako Mori test is;

  • at least 1 female character
  • who gets her own character arc
  • that is not about supporting a mans story

For example, this test supports Black Widow’s character in ‘The Avengers’. Although the film fails the Bechdel test, Black Widow has her own character arc which contributes to the plot and not to the aid of a male character. However, films passing the Mako Mori test are even rarer than those passing Bechdel. Female characters being treated like human characters with lives external to men is practically unheard of. The Bechdel test mostly fails because there is only ever the ‘token woman’; the mother figure, the love interest or the side-kick, and so there are simply no other women to talk to. So even with the Mako Mori test lowering the accepted amount of women to one, mostly, the female characters just aren’t treated as human beings with their own narrative arc.

It is worth noting here just one more principle which is widely used to critique films; the Smurfette Principle. I first heard of this here– an amazing video by Feminist Frequency who highlights a lot of other problems within pop-culture regarding female representation, well worth a watch of her channel. The Smurfette Principle is essentially the ‘token women’, the ensemble cast or group of characters where there is only one woman. This can also be applied to race- a group of white people with one token minority. ‘Inception’, ‘Transformers’, and even female panelists on well known panel shows such as ‘Mock The Week’ come to mind, are just some examples of this. As well as the ‘Smurfs’, who gives their token woman long luscious blonde hair and heels, obviously.

There are a few different takes on these sorts of principles and tests, and the underlying theme is that women are just not getting represented enough. Not in the way that men are. We need to see a film where the characters are women talking about the plot together and driving and contributing to the narrative. Rather than the traditional ‘does this film pass the Bechdel test?’ critique, I think we as a society need to move onto a more general test which encompasses different principles in order to read the text sufficiently. However, the endgame is to ideally have Hollywood employ these simple rules and tests upon their films to make sure that they are representing women as widely across the spectrum as they represent men. And if they are not, then back to the drawing board, boys!

Agent Carter’s Importance

agent carterWith the new Agent Carter series premiering tonight over in the States, it got me thinking about how important giving a female character from a largely male-driven universe her own show really is. For those of you who may not know, Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwell) is the female lead in the first Captain America film, and then provides a cameo in its sequel: The Winter Soldier. During the run up to the premiere of the show, Hayley Atwell has become more and more active on twitter, with one particular post catching my eye when I scrolled past someone’s screencap of it on tumblr a few days ago. Hayley was sharing with her followers, the makeup, specifically lipstick, that Peggy uses.

If you asked any fan to describe Peggy Carter, her makeup would inevitably be high on their list as it is an integral part of her aesthetic. However, this particular tumblr user’s post which I scrolled past, seemed extremely disgruntled with this development; saying how ‘pathetic’ this was and that Atwell and fans ‘should be more interested in what guns she uses’. Now, I really hope an eyebrow was raised here, because I sure as hell did when I first read that as I was unwittingly browsing tumblr with my cup of tea the other afternoon. Carter has, more than once, shown us how capable she is in handling guns and taking care of herself, so why having an interest in makeup is pathetic is beyond me.

Hayley Atwell's Twitter

Hayley Atwell’s Twitter

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that some fanboys are panicking a little at something being specifically for us. For the mostly female fanbase. (Or boys who wear makeup, y’know, whatever makes you feel badass). Where fans of Thor can collect various forms of Mjolnir and fans of Iron Man can collect mugs of his head (no, seriously you can); Agent Carter fans can collect the makeup that she uses. Interestingly, there’s a large history around male fans shunning female fans from things they deem ‘theirs’, especially on the internet, and accusing them of ‘faking’ their love of all things ‘geeky’ for various reasons including ‘just trying to get boys to fancy them’ and other trivial nonsense when women express being fans of something.

Fans can wear Peggy Carter’s lipstick, feel kickass, and no one else even needs to know that they’re wearing it if they don’t want to inform them. Liking the makeup that Carter wears, and not the guns that she uses, doesn’t make anyone any less of a fan or any less of a feminist. It also doesn’t trivialise Carter’s accomplishments; being taken seriously shouldn’t encroach on your femininity. If that lipstick makes a fan, or even Carter herself, feel amazing, boost their morale and feel like it is their own personal firearm- then what is the problem?

 makeup       makeup2

Makeup, more specifically red lipstick, was extremely important during the war effort in the 1940s. So important in fact, that Winston Churchill and Elizabeth Arden teamed up to create the perfect red lipstick in ‘Montezuma Red’, to raise morale in both genders during World War ll. And so, with it’s importance in real life, should it not play a part now..?

Since her character’s success within the fandom, and the unrelenting pressure within internet communities upon Marvel and film studios for more female presences in superhero films, as well as for female characters to be given their own solo films as Thor, Iron Man, Captain American and others have been. It becomes clear that ‘Agent Carter’ is a form of experiment; to gauge audience reaction and success of a female led story line. Peggy Carter battles multiple forms of sexism in ‘Agent Carter’ in the 1940’s, and it seems as though Hayley Atwell faces the 2015 parallels in the entertainment industry. If this experiment of Marvel’s fails, I think we can pretty much kiss goodbye to a Black Widow solo film.

The pilot episode has received rave reviews (here and here for example) and I’m particularly excited. She is an interesting character, has amazing lipstick too lbr, and I hugely want this to be a success even if it just kickstarts a wider interest in the demand for female superheroes to be brought to the forefront.

‘Agent Carter’ premieres tonight in America on ABC. Will you be watching? If you’re not from America, are you gonna watch it once if eventually makes it’s way over this side of the pond? And perhaps more importantly, who’s gonna order that amazing lipstick?!

Feminism and Witchcraft.

Witches pop up in most peoples lives and cultures; from religion to media. The paradigm of the witch is incredibly interesting. Witches, primarily, seem to attempt to own their narrative and maintain agency over it and their sexuality; something which the patriarchy highly dislikes. Hence the ‘witch’ falling into categories such as; ugly, spinster and lesbians.

One classical component of the witch within the media is appearance. From way back in Shakespeare’s three witches in ‘Macbeth’, they are described as ‘wild in their attire’ and ‘should be women, and yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so’. This conveys the idea that if women do not conform to regular patriarchal standards of beauty then they become an ‘other’ in society; in this case the ‘other’ becomes the witch. Similarly, in ‘Sleeping Beauty’, the main protagonist is the witch ‘Maleficent’. Interestingly, the three women with powers who help Aurora- Flora, Fauna and Merriweather, are called fairies. However, because of Maleficent’s appearance, (green and with horns) she is referred to as a witch. Interestingly, horns are seen as icons of the ‘devil’ and demons; a very male trait. This could be seen as confrontational to males and the patriarchy.

Also commonly found in the repertoire of witches in the media, is a constant state of ‘spinsterhood’; if the woman is single and seen as uncontrolled by a man, the patriarchy punish her and therefore label her as a witch. Take ‘Hansel and Gretel’ for instance, a story which outlines the fear of the single, childless woman. The witch that they meet in the woods is a single woman without children. It is speculated that the witch represents Hansel and Gretel’s new step mother; a former single woman who cannot live up to the idolised real mother. The ‘‘evil’ stepmother’ archetype is treated similar to the witch in the media, but that discussion is for another time. Upon Hansel & Gretel’s return, the step mother has died- seemingly the witch has the choice between spinsterhood or death. More recent, we can see examples of this in ‘Hocus Pocus’ and an extremely recent example is seen in Disney’s ‘Frozen’. Elsa (although approved patriarchally attractive) is shunned by society and at the end of the film is still single, whilst her ‘non-witch’ sister has found her one-true-love.

The Crucible is a major contributing factor to the modern day representation and understanding of witches. Written in 1953, the play is based on true events meaning that the analysis of fictional works surrounding witches to do with resulting representations and discussions are all the more potent. The play shows that the term witch is mostly just assigned to ‘the vulnerable’- women in general including women of colour, older women and the poor. I see witch hunting as synonymous with modern day ‘women hunting’; misogyny and resulting attacks surrounding a woman’s right to equal pay, abortion rights, and a continuing and never ending list of battles for something as simple as equal rights. A recurring theme in ‘The Crucible’ is that of hysteria- how an idea or a comment can be taken out of context and misunderstood. Much like today’s current misunderstanding of feminism, with a frightening amount of people believing that it is a women only man-hating club.

the craft

Sexual liberation is a major theme in modern day witches in particular. When considering Willow in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and the women in ‘The Craft’, they all are placed in modern day (well, the 90s) clothes and situations; including third-wave feminism and sex-positivity. The outfits often include short skirts and low cut tops as well as gothic makeup and jewellery in contrast to the outfits of ‘Maleficent’ or ‘Hocus Pocus’. In these recent cases, the women can be considered as being conventionally attractive, however, because of this, the patriarchy needs to place them in different categories- in the cases of Willow and the girls of The Craft, that category is lesbianism. Because the male viewer cannot understand why the women is attractive and yet a witch- these are two opposing ideals and the ‘witch’ part is not for him or his male gaze. Famously, Willow is a lesbian, and the girls in the Craft all experiment with lesbianism and so this is the patriarchy’s ‘reason’ that these women are single and witches; not because they are unattractive but because they don’t like men period. The average male needs to categorise an attractive woman into either ‘available for me’ or ‘not available for any man’.  

When you consider the witch’s male counterpart, the wizard, most people would think of Merlin, Harry Potter and Gandalf- all are considered the helpful, intelligent hero. The witch gets a much worse rep. Over time, I believe that the idea of the witch has evolved into the modern day idea of the feminist. The words witch and feminist are almost interchangeable; both words are not deemed attractive by most men, and nor is the woman who believes she is one. The modern day feminist can be considered as someone who disrupts the patriarchy, is sexually liberated, is quite happy being single and doesn’t care if ‘most men’ don’t find her attractive because she identifies as a feminist. The modern day ‘witch hunting’ has turned into online ‘trolling’ hate on YouTube comments and on 4chan boards and attacking women just for being women.